1. I'm on their side.
2. God is on their side, too.
He's not some big, angry, rule-making hater up in the sky. He's their Creator and He loves them even more than I do. He's on their team. He ALWAYS wants them to win, even if winning doesn't look the way they (or I) thought it would.
3. There is no greater character trait than integrity.
And there is nothing that turns people off more than being a hypocrite. Our yes must be yes and our no must be no. We must say what we mean and mean what we say. Even in the little "gray" areas of life, we must choose honesty, not allowing even a hint of untruthfulness.
4. It's okay to ask questions (and to expect answers).
Sometimes it's so tempting just to say "Because it is," when my kids ask "Why?" for the 5,234th time in two hours. Or to leave things as "I don't know," when asked how a toaster works or why the Jewish people reject Jesus as the Messiah. By encouraging curiosity and showing them how to find answers, I'm equipping them for life. Because life is just full of questions.
5. Be grateful.
Not just for the big things, but for the little things, too. I want my kids to routinely show appreciation for those people who enrich their lives; teachers, coaches, friends, family, strangers. Thank you notes are incredibly important and so is simply saying the words "thank you," repeatedly and sincerely.
6. Do your best.
It's all you can do. Sometimes it won't be enough. Hopefully those times will be few and far between.
7. People are important.
All people. Thin people. Popular people. Ugly people. Fat people. Drop-dead gorgeous people. Conservatives and Liberals. People with light skin and people with dark skin. Nice people, grumpy people, and people who can't sing. Spanish language speakers and those who communicate with clicks and grunts. Babies yet to be born and seniors in their final years. People who think like me and people who don't.
8. Respect must sometimes be given even if it has not been earned.
This can be so hard, especially when respect doesn't appear to be deserved. It's tough to respect the teacher who thinks humiliation is the same as discipline, the coach who doesn't give you a chance at the position you want, the politician you disagree with or the policeman who writes you a ticket for driving five over. Teaching them to value the person over the action and to show proper respect for the position of authority is tough, but it's a goal we're striving for.
9. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Small things like letting your brother chose which movie to watch, feeding the dog (when it's not even your turn), helping carry groceries or moving someone's furniture turn into bigger things like building wells for the thirsty in Liberia, saving victims of human trafficking in Cambodia and preventing history from repeating itself in the American South. Packing shoeboxes full of goodies for kids in third world countries is more rewarding than opening a slew of new toys on your birthday.